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23andMe no longer thinks I'm Spanish, Scandinavian, or Japanese!

A look at the evolving analysis of my genetic ancestry from that fun genetic test thing you can do!

My genetic origins, as 23andMe understand it in 2023.

A few years ago I did one of those genetic ancestry tests from the company 23andMe. The results were, if I’m honest, less exciting than I anticipated. Looking more recently, it seems I’ve been downgraded to even less genetic diversity than a few years ago now too! Which while making me feel a bit boring on a genetic and historic basis, is a fascinating look at how this fuzzy sort of science is evolving as their dataset increases with ever more people doing the tests.

I’ve long been curious about my genetics for two reasons: Firstly I’m adopted, so they are a genuine mystery to me. But more so, people constantly guess at me being from wide-ranging parts of the world! I’ve had suggestions for just about every country around the Mediterranean, and most of the Middle East. Even as far afield as someone once leaning across the counter at the shop I work at and conspiratorially whispering, “Is there Indian in you?” (that exact weird phrasing I promise!).

Well it turns out, not even one tiny bit! Here are 23andMe’s results for me circa 2023, and as you can see I am 100% Northwestern European so far as they can tell!

My genetic ancestry as 23andMe see it in 2023

Back in 2017, they had a similar but slightly different interpretation of the results, with a tantalising 1% Iberian ancestry surely accounting for my apparently exotic looks, and even one ancient ancestor coming from Japan to make up 0.1% of my genes!

My 23andMe results as they understood them back in 2017.

If you look more closely, there’s actually a lot of shifting around in their analysis. They’ve increased by British and Irish ancestry from 53.9% to 58.3%. They also seem to have a clearer idea of origins in the rest of Northwest Europe, as they’ve shifted me from being 29.8% generically Northwestern European to just 2.3% now, having pinned me down to a more significant 39.4% French/German ancestry, up from a mere 8.8% before. Along the way I seem to have lost my potential Scandinavian ancestors too (although that region is still included in the broad non-specific Northwestern European lump).


I’m guessing 23andMe must have quite a lot of UK-based users, as they now offer a further breakdown of my UK origins; suggesting my genetic family hails most likely from London, and the Liverpool/Manchester area, plus maybe a smattering around the West Country and South Wales.

Curiously enough my actual family (my adopted one) has branches in London and Bristol, although I’m not aware of anything going on in the North West from my non-genetic relatives!

23andMe's suggestion of my UK origins.

Another new analysis 23andMe now shows is a timeline. Mine is fairly simple, but stirs the imagination. Given the timing it makes me imagine a potential migration or international relationship occurring in the interwar period in the early 20th century!

23andMe's idea of my genetic history over time.

Unlike the UK segment, they don’t yet have any kind of breakdown of my continental genetic origins. The French and German block actually also includes Austria, Switzerland, and the Benelux countries. If they continue to improve their databases and analysis, it might be fascinating to revisit this a few more years down the line and see if I’m actually wholly Luxembourgian or something!


One other change not on the map: It seems I’ve lost a few Neanderthal ancestors too, as they originally had me assigned a chunky 3.2% of my genes from the other Human species, but now they think I’m under 2%. I guess my stone-age ancestors weren’t so adventurous in their mating habits after all!

So there we go. I can’t offer much insight into why I apparently look Portuguese, Italian, Moroccan, Indian or whatever else you might want to imagine my origins might be. And alas my Japanese ancient ancestor has vanished to time and better science. It looks like I’m quite excessively British, and in fact maybe a Londoner, with a pre-WW2 French lover among my greater grandparents!


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